Ever since the Sega arcade classic Mad Dog McCree from the early 90's, there's been something special about Wild West related games - a feeling of being the cowboy in a town that's not big enough for the pair of us.
So it was good to see Atari announcing their gun-slingin' Wild-West-em-up title at ECTS last year, and looking to have taken on a number of similarities from the Mad Dog classic - even the logo is in a similar style, and it'd appear many aspects of the game follow the same basic principals.
Unfortunately however it doesn't quite pull off the same level of enjoyment as Mad Dog managed - maybe it's the lack of lightgun which makes it feel different, and the fact that Dead Man's Hand over-complicates the on-screen gun pointing procedure by using a bizarre auto-aim facility which isn't always reliable.
It's this seemingly helpful feature which hinders the gameplay most, as you'll find your character El Tejon is a bit of a sharp shooter that simply doesn't miss - until you attempt to point the gun where you think it should go and it over-compensates and misses the target which it was trying to automatically select. It's nice to have a helping hand, and will benefit gamers during the first few plays of the game, but beyond this it's simply annoying.
And it's a shame as the shooting aspect is where Dead Man's Hand also works superbly well, thanks to the Unreal engine which has been used, resulting in the ability to take shots at the scenery and obstacles which then roll and tumble just as they would in an all action Wild West film, and obviously with the aim of ending up falling from a great height on to your opponent.
A fairly broad selection of levels ranging from bar brawls to horseback shoot-outs give Dead Man's Hand some much needed longevity and some of the levels are very enjoyable, but unfortunately just like the gun shooting, it's the graphics which let down the overall feel of the game - the framerate seems slow and the characters badly animated and far too wishy-washy. A real shame when so much work has been put in to the character acting to help bring them to life, despite the fact it's a little too cheesy.
It's the Xbox Live support which impresses most with Dead Man's Hand, as it does with many other titles where the single player game isn't quite all it could be, and fortunately some online battles through a rundown Old West town are fairly enjoyable, and don't suffer from quite the same linear feeling that the single player offline game offers.
There's a good game "hiding in them there hills" which fans of the Wild West will really love, but a few unpolished aspects to Dead Man's Hand ultimately disappoint - a shame when you consider there's bar brawls, horseback shoot-outs and a whole range of other action which could have snatched the attention from the now somewhat ancient but still unbeaten Mad Dog McCree.Overall score: 5 out of 10
Recommended Price: £34.99
Available: NowBuy Dead Man's Hand for the Xbox from Amazon